Retirement Reflections: Lots of Travel So Far …

I turned 72 the other day. I’ve been officially “retired” for about 26 months. It’s time to assess my new status. I’ll try to do that in a series of postings on retirement. No doubt there are few who will care. And why should they? No, I don’t expect that many will read these postings.  I’m thinking of them more or less as therapy for me.

To begin with, I can’t tell you how many times friends and former colleagues have asked me “. . . and how do you like retirement?” The lilt of their question and the look on their faces suggests that they expect me to say “It’s been terrific. I’ve never been happier.”

However, it’s been more complicated than that. For one thing, I don’t think my retirement really began till about two months ago. That’s because since my end-of-career party in May of 2010 I’ve been teaching off and on in Costa Rica – in a Latin American Studies Program. Even apart from that, my bride of 36 years, Peggy, and I have been traveling almost non-stop. So I feel the jury’s still out on my particular retirement – at least if you think of it as kicking back, slowing down and withdrawing from the fray.

Let me get more specific. Travel-wise, here’s the way I’ve been spending my time for the past 26 months:

  • Three eight-week stints in Costa Rica teaching in a Latin American Studies program = 6 months
  • Five months in South Africa accompanying Peggy on her sabbatical in Cape Town.
  • Ten weeks with Peggy in Mexico while she researched her forthcoming book.
  • Three weeks in Costa Rica for Christmas with our entire immediate family (2011)
  • Two weeks with our daughter Maggie’s family on a Mexico vacation (2010)
  • Two weeks with Maggie’s family on a Mexico vacation (2011)
  • Five day visit with our eldest son, Brendan in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico where he’s stationed in the U.S. Embassy (2011)
  • Four visits with Maggie in her home in Westport, CT = 2 ½ months total
  • Three visits with our youngest son, Patrick in New Orleans where he taught first grade in the Teach for America program = 1 week total
  • Two summers in Canadian Lakes, MI – in the lake cottage we purchased from the estate of Peggy’s recently deceased father = 3 months.

TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: about 21.25 of 26 months or well more than the majority of my first two years + of retirement has been spent on the road.

I’m feeling it’s about time to settle down and find out what leaving employment behind is really like.

But so far It hasn’t been all travel. At the beginning, I set some definite goals for myself that covered areas of my life I wanted to grow in. Looking back, I can see that I’ve met some of those goals. Others . . . not so much. . . .  More about that in my next retirement posting.

Cape Town Notes

I’m here in Cape Town, South Africa, and have been for the last three and a half months, accompanying my wife, Peggy, who’s completing her sabbatical in this one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We’re living in Llandudno, just outside of Cape Town in a flat we’re renting from friends we met sixteen years ago during a sabbatical year in Zimbabwe. We’re a five-minute walk from the beach which is just spectacular.

View from our deck

For the past month, we’ve been traveling this “cradle of human civilization” along the gorgeous “Garden Route” and beautiful “Wine Route” that attract so many visitors each year. With our daughter Maggie, her husband (Kerry), their two delightful children [Eva (3) and Oscar (1)], and the family’s au pair (Carla) we’ve explored Cape Town, its museums, gardens, and encircling mountains. We’ve also been on safari encountering in the process lions, elephants, wart hogs, hartebeests, impalas, ostriches, black rhinos, giraffes, water buffalo, and zebra.

Setting out to search for lions.

Our son, Brendan, also visited us for a week with his girlfriend, Erin.

Erin and Brendan

Brendan and I played a couple of South Africa’s picturesque golf courses surrounded as they are by endless vineyards and looming mountains.

Brendan teeing off. Mike watching and wishing he could hit the ball like that.

Some of the rock formations here in the southern Cape are remarkable. As Dean Perini points out in his Pathways of the Sun, many of them have been “enhanced” by the Koi-Koi and San people indigenous to this area. The enhancements (for instance, sharpening features in rocks which resemble human faces) serve the same purpose as the completely human fabrications in places like Tikal, Stone Henge, and (perhaps) Easter Island.  They position the movement of the sun, moon, stars, and planets to keep track of equinoxes and solstices. All of those heavenly bodies and seasons influence our bodies (70% water) as surely as they do the ocean tides and the seasons. So it was important to the Koi-Koi and San to mark the precise moments of the annual celestial events for purposes of celebrations, rituals, and feasts.

We’re privileged here in Llandudno to bask in the presence of the great “Mother Rock,” which like so many other mountains, rocks, sacred wells and springs in this area exudes extraordinary cleansing energy. Peggy and I often make our evening meditation before this Rock, and on occasion in a nearby sacred cave.

Sacred Cave
Mother Rock

Yes, the human story began here 300,000 to 500,000 years ago. In the presence of ocean, sacred caves, and holy rocks, we’re attempting to reconnect with the roots of it all and with the animals and ancient peoples who in their harmony with nature’s processes seem much wiser than we post-moderns are proving to be. What a privilege it is to be in Africa.